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A rapid review of the impacts of « Big Events » on risks, harms, and service delivery among people who use drugs: Implications for responding to COVID-19.

Int J Drug Policy. 2021 Jan 20;:103127

Authors: Zolopa C, Hoj S, Bruneau J, Meeson JS, Minoyan N, Raynault MF, Makarenko I, Larney S

BACKGROUND: « Big Events » are major disruptions to physical, political, and economic environments that can influence vulnerability to drug-related harms. We reviewed the impacts of Big Events with relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic on drug-related risk and harms and access to drug treatment and harm reduction services.
METHODS: We conducted a rapid review of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods literature relating to the following Big Events: respiratory infection pandemics, natural disasters, financial crises, and heroin shortages. Included studies reported data on changes to risks, harms, and/or service provisioning for people who use illicit drugs (other than cannabis) in the context of these Big Events. Searches were conducted in PubMed in May 2020, and two reviewers screened studies for inclusion. Peer-reviewed studies published in English or French were included. We used a narrative synthesis approach and mapped risk pathways identified in the literature.
RESULTS: No studies reporting on respiratory infection pandemics were identified. Twelve studies reporting on natural disaster outcomes noted marked disruption to drug markets, increased violence and risk of drug-related harm, and significant barriers to service provision caused by infrastructure damage. Five studies of the 2008 global financial crisis indicated increases in the frequency of drug use and associated harms as incomes and service funding declined. Finally, 17 studies of heroin shortages noted increases in heroin price and adulteration, potentiating drug substitutions and risk behaviors, as well as growing demand for drug treatment.
CONCLUSION: Current evidence reveals numerous risk pathways and service impacts emanating from Big Events. Risk pathway maps derived from this literature provide groundwork for future research and policy analyses, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the findings, we recommend responding to the pandemic with legislative and financial support for the flexible delivery of harm reduction services, opioid agonist treatment, and mental health care.

PMID: 33549464 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Source: ncbi 2

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